Page last updated at 16:41 GMT, Thursday, 31 December 2009

Sales of fishing licences hit new record in 2009

The Environment Agency said fishing was a credit crunch-busting pastime

A record 1.5m angling licences were sold in England and Wales this year, the Environment Agency has said.

The agency said the centuries-old sport had seen a major resurgence over the past decade, with almost 500,000 more licences sold in 2009 than in 2000.

It credits the boost to cleaner rivers, free guides and the credit crunch.

The Environment Agency said angling was becoming more popular as a "cheap and cheerful" pastime, with a year's coarse fishing rod licence costing £26.

Licence sales generated more than £23m in revenue for the agency in 2008, when 1.3m people bought a rod licence to fish freshwaters in England and Wales.

The rise in the number of licences sold this year should bring in an extra £3m, which will be reinvested in improving fisheries.

'Healthy populations'

The Environment Agency said it had plans to revitalise 14,500 km (9,000 miles) of river by 2015, creating new fisheries and fish passes to help stocks navigate locks and weirs.

There are now salmon in all of the rivers of the south Wales coalfield that once ran black with coal
Matt Crocker
Environment Agency

The agency will also be putting more than 350,000 farm-reared fish into rivers each year to boost angling and restock waterways hit by pollution incidents.

Matt Crocker, the agency's head of fisheries, said more and more rivers were now supporting healthy fish populations.

"The result is that major coarse fishing rivers such as the Severn, Thames and lower Trent have been providing consistently good fishing," he said.

"There are now salmon in all of the rivers of the south Wales coalfield that once ran black with coal."

The Environment Agency said once-polluted rivers such as the Wandle, Taff, Mersey, Don and Irwell and Birmingham's canals were now supporting healthy fish populations.

"As well as this boost to fish stocks, we have also distributed over a million free angling guides this year to make it easier to find a local fishing spot," added Mr Crocker.

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